Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

A More Truthful Use of Political Props

It was Ronald Reagan, that old trouper, who first started using as human props ordinary Americans who would supposedly benefit from administration policies. We became accustomed to seeing John and Mary Doe, the putative beneficiaries of tax cuts and regulatory guttings, seated in the gallery at State of the Union addresses and other political events. Reagan also liked to identify himself with everyday heroes, who were regularly invited to White House affairs. Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who tragically died in the 1986 Challenger explosion, gave her life because the Reagan administration needed an education prop. At the time, the administration was under fire for big cuts in federal school funding. Sending a teacher into space, supposedly to perform educational experiments, was mainly a public relations gimmick to divert attention from the administration's actual policies and associate Reagan in the public mind with teaching. Despite occasional setbacks, the use of human props...

Democrats, Block Those Bush Appointees

Republicans now control the executive and legislative branches of government and are aiming for a lock on the third branch, the federal courts. All that stands in their way are 50 Democratic senators, 40 of whom can mount a filibuster. But will the Democrats be as unified and as tough as the Republicans? We will get a preview of the Democrats' resolve when the Senate takes up the nomination of Ted Olson as solicitor general. Olson, who was less than candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in the Clinton-bashing Arkansas Project, would be the most partisan solicitor general ever. Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, now wants to make it harder for home state senators to delay court nominations with so-called blue slips. Coincidentally, it was Hatch, in 1995, who hardened the blue-slip policy to allow a single senator to block a nomination indefinitely. Republicans used this system to block dozens of Clinton nominations, which were...

Bush Paid Dearly For Arrogance

Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party just as the Senate was completing action to approve President Bush's tax cut with only slight modifications. While Jeffords's switch will help the Democrats slow down Bush's juggernaut, it comes too late to block his single most revolutionary victory. Bush will now pay dearly for governing as if he had a mandate to move the country hard right. Democrats, in gaining control of Senate committees, will gain the immensely useful power to run hearings. This will enable them to set agendas and shed light on abuses that Republicans and their corporate allies would rather ignore. It will help Democrats promote liberal legislation and slow Republican alternatives. And it will make it harder for Bush to appoint wall-to-wall conservative judges. But Jeffords's shift is not without complications for the Democrats as well. Now a single Democratic senator has the power to hold the whole Democratic caucus hostage by threatening to bolt their party just...

Bad News for President Bush

George W. Bush, the only presidential son since John Quincy Adams to serve as chief executive, could emulate the Adams family in one other respect. Like Adams senior and Bush senior, W. could well be a one-term president. Recent polls bring nasty news for Bush. His approval rating has plummeted. Despite the generally favorable media spin on his recent European trip - that world leaders were pleasantly surprised that he wasn't a total moron - the public isn't buying it. A New York Times/CBS poll found that a majority of voters doubt his ability to lead in an international crisis and doubt that foreign leaders have respect for Bush. On domestic issues, the margin of distrust is even larger. Voters don't trust Bush to make the right picks for the Supreme Court (37 percent do, 51 percent don't). And on most issues before Congress, voters by large margins are more sympathetic to the Democratic position. These include giving patients broad rights in health plans, adding prescription drug...

Al Gore, the Populist

In the last couple of weeks, Al Gore has undergone yet another makeover. Now he's a populist, bashing drug companies, oil barons, and tax cuts for the wealthy, sticking up for the ordinary working American. He gave a barn-burner of a speech to the NAACP. This past week he was rewarded by a nice bounce in the polls, putting him almost even with W. What gives? What gives is that nothing else worked. What gives is that Gore has suffered from a passion gap, and in order to express passion, you need something to be passionate about. Reinventing government may be sensible policy, but it is not the stuff that brings a crowd to its feet. What gives is that Gore and his handlers finally grasped that the affluent donors who increasingly dominate American politics may love a cautious center-right agenda, but it's the voters who ultimately elect a president. What gives is that Ralph Nader was stealing the heart of the party's most energetic wing. ...

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